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Monday, January 28, 2013

What can I do to improve my chances of winning my disability claim?

I’m sometimes asked what a person can do to increase his or her chances of winning a claim for Social Security disability or SSI benefits. 


Here are a few suggestions:


(1)        Make sure you have a lawyer who is experienced in handling Social Security disability and SSI claims. 


(2)        If you need medical treatment but aren’t getting it, start.  Don’t wait around – get back into treatment today.  I can’t overstate the importance of this.  If you don’t have a doctor, ask someone you trust for a referral.  If you think you can’t afford a doctor, check with your local health department.  Many towns have low-cost or sliding-scale health providers.


Why is this so important?  Simple:  under Social Security’s rules, a disability decision must be supported by medical evidence.  Even if the judge believes you 100%, the judge must be able to point to medical evidence supporting your claim.  In addition, for the sake of your own personal health and well-being (as well as your disability claim), if you need medical treatment, you should get it.


(3)        If you aren’t taking medicine that your doctors have prescribed, start taking it immediately.  If you don’t, then the judge is likely to think that you don’t really need it.  It’s a short step from there to thinking that you don’t really have a problem, or that even if you do have a problem, it’s not as serious as you say it is.  In addition, of course, if you’ve been prescribed medicine, it’s usually for a reason.   


If you aren’t taking medicine because you can’t afford it, cut out all unnecessary expenses.  Are you paying for cable TV?  Internet?  Cigarettes?  Movies?  Any of a hundred other things you may not need as much as you need medicine?  If so, then stop paying for those things and put the money you save toward the cost of your medicine.  In addition, many drug companies (and some health providers) have programs that let you get medicine for very little or no cost. 


(4)        If you’re drinking too much, or using street drugs at all, stop.  Under Social Security’s rules, if either alcohol or street drugs are contributing to your disability in a significant way, they have to deny you benefits even if you are disabled.  If you can’t stop without help, get help.  Don’t wait --- get help now. 

3:38 pm | link 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

I have XYZ disease (or condition). Do I qualify for disability?

FAQ:  I have XYZ disease (or condition).  Do I qualify for Social Security disability insurance benefits (or SSI)?


Answer:  It depends.


DIB and SSI have both medical and non-medical requirements.  Let’s assume that you are an adult and that you meet the non-medical requirements.  Let’s also assume that you aren’t working and earning too much to qualify.  We’ll focus on the medical requirements.


In general, to qualify medically, you must show that you either (1) meet or medically equal what Social Security calls a “listing,” or (2) cannot do the work you used to do, or any other jobs that are out there.  You must also show that your condition has lasted or is expected to last for at least 12 months in a row, or that it is terminal.


A few of the listings are very simple and easy to state.  If you’ve had both of your hands amputated, for example, this meets Listing 1.05A.  If your remaining vision in your better eye after best correction is 20/200 or less, this meets Listing 2.02.


Most listings, though, focus not only what you have, but how what you have affects you.  This makes sense when you think about it.  Many people, for example, have coronary artery disease.  In some people the disease is well controlled, perhaps with diet or medicine.  These people can live full, active lives.  In other people the disease can’t be well controlled.  These people are more limited in what they can do.  The two groups have the same disease, but the law will evaluate them differently.


If you don’t meet or equal a listing, you can still qualify medically if you can’t do the work you used to do, or any other work that’s out there.


To decide this, SSA first decides what it thinks you can still do.  SSA calls this your “residual functional capacity,” or “RFC.”  Then SSA compares what it thinks you can still do with the demands of your past work.  To do this, SSA looks at the work you’ve done in the last 15 years.  If you can’t do what you used to do, then SSA looks at easier jobs to see whether you could do those.  If SSA decides that you can’t do any of those other jobs either, it will find that you medically qualify.

So....it depends.

4:54 pm | link 

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